We had a chance to talk to the new writer of Borderlands 2, Anthony Burch (Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?). Keith and Anthony talked about the story as compared to the previous iteration in the series, a little bit about the new classes, and how the game has changed as a whole. Expect Borderlands 2 to release September 18th.
Keith: “Look (and listen) for me clearly realizing that the handheld mic isn’t recording yet! It’s hilarious AND embarrassing! The audio gets better about a minute and a half in.”
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K: Hey, this is Keith from Twinfinite, here in the ‘City of Angels’ with Anthony Burch, lead writer for Borderlands 2.
K: So obviously you guys wanted to retain many elements of the first game in the second iteration. What are some of the major changes in the game?
A: There are way way way more new locations, not just desert. We have Hyperion City, with big spires, we have grasslands, tundra… All the weapons have been rebuilt from the ground up, so they actually all look different now, they fire differently, there are even more guns than the first game; they all have sort of a strategic coolness to them, and the story is much more of a center stage. It’s not really something that’s just delivered in text boxes when you complete a mission; it’s constant, omnipresent, and sort of drives your whole experience.
K: Now how big is the world compared to the first game?
A: I’m not sure exactly how big, but it’s definitely bigger. If nothing else, it’s definitely got a lot more detail and nuance. You’ll be able to look around and see a bunch of cool things, like “Oh it looks like the Bloodshot Clan came through this area”, and you’ll find a hotel, but inside there’s this horrible shrine to the Bloodshot clan, and that sort of thing, so there’s a lot more to explore, and find, and see.
K: So more detail within the world.
K: Okay, tell us a little bit about the differences between the classes in the first and second game.
A: In the first game they basically had 30% less skills than the character classes in this game. They have way more skills and the classes are very different. They have certain parallels, like the Berzerker is Brick, and the Gunzerker is Salvador, but they really play completely differently from the first game’s character. Like Zero, the closest approximation is Mordecai, as they both favor sniper rifles, but even that’s not really close, he’s evolved far beyond where Mordecai has, because he has these cool melee strikes, or he can become a sort of “shotgun ninja” where you can get behind someone and get a bunch of points into the ambush skill which increases your damage for enemies who aren’t looking at you, and then just blow a guy in half with a shotgun from behind him.
K: I like the term “shotgun ninja”.
A: I do too; I actually coined it.
K: So that’s your baby. Concerning the writing- I’m glad I got you, so I could bring it up- So, in the first game, obviously you touched on this- I don’t know if the story was bad, but because of the way it was delivered, it was overshadowed in a lot of ways by the gameplay, so what approaches have you taken to avoid that, and to send the story to the forefront.
A: Like I said, instead of keeping the story in text boxes, we’re making sure that as you play through the game, the characters are constantly speaking to one another – did you guys play the demo?
K: Yeah, we did.
A: Yeah, so you know, every time you’re knocking down one of the statues, Jack is taunting you, or Claptrap is warning you… The amount of dialogue, there’s actually 6 times more dialogue in this game than there was in the first game. Basically, you’re just going to meet a lot more characters and they’re going to be speaking to you a lot more, so you’re always going to be knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re not going to be confused, because that was the main purpose of the dialogue, to inform you of what you’re doing, and why you should care, and then be entertaining and as funny as possible.
K: Okay, now I don’t know if you know, but mostly this is for my benefit, wondering if I can still play the game on my Macbook Pro, but do you know what the specs are for the game, compared to the previous one?
A: I actually don’t know, sorry.
K: That’s fine, we’ll figure it out. With your job, how do you stay consistent with what people really liked about the first game, the humor and that sort of thing, while adding your own style to it?
A: By working with everybody else on the team, working with art, working with guys who worked on the first Borderlands, seeing “Is this too silly? Is this too dark? Where does this fall in the spectrum?”. Borderlands as a franchise can be funny if it wants to be, but it can also be kind of dark, you look at Patricia Tannis in the first game, and her backstory, it’s kind of funny, you know, talking about eating bugs in alphabetical order, but she also smothers her friend with a pillow. It can get kind of dark, so we were sort of careful to make sure that every time there was some funny stuff, there was also some sort of hard edge to it somewhere, that keeps it from being a funny, over-the-top, impossible to take serious kind of goofy experience.
K: Cool, and I guess my last question is just, um, how do we all, become.. “hired” for Gearbox?
A: Haha, I don’t know, I just got lucky as balls. I did my webseries, and met Mikey Neumann when they needed a writer for Borderlands, and they were like: “You’re good at doing 90-second long poop jokes, do youwant to be in charge of our 40-hour multi-million dollar game?” and I was like “you’re weird… but yes.”
K: Seems like a pretty direct transition.
A: Of course, why wouldn’t you want one to work on the other? It was a big risk, and I hope I don’t disappoint everybody.
K: Well, we’re really looking forward to checking it out, to see what you brought to the story.
A: Oh I’m glad.
K: Thanks a lot for the interview, and I hope that you get to see a little bit more in the last 30 minutes of the show.
A: Yea I don’t think so.
K: Thank you!